So the story goes, Frost* mastermind Jem Godfrey wrote a large number of tracks for what would become the band’s third album, 2016’s Falling Satellites. Rather than forge ahead with the very large collection he’d teased over the two-plus years preceding its release, he went with a specific batch of tracks and left the remainder to the “complete someday” pile. One might say that the Others E.P. is, then, that promise fulfilled.
The E.P. will eventually be a part of a larger collection titled 13 Winters. I’ll discuss this in a moment.
Upon the release of Falling Satellites, my review said that it seemed like an unofficial concept album that cataloged endings; things falling, like childhood homes; and things dying, like people. Strictly my interpretation, as a subsequent interview with Godfrey pretty much shot holes in that conceptual notion.
Still, one couldn’t be faulted for thinking he was in a dark headspace, as the tracks comprising the Others E.P. are equally weighty, if not more so. The first three tracks, “Fathers,” “Clouda,” and “Exhibit A” all feature sonic congestion that, while thrilling, are equally anxiety-inducing. “Exhibit A,” complete with a gang-chant that sounds like a jock jam from Hades, also has the telling chorus hook, “We own, we own, we own you.”
The prettiest song on the collection, the ballad “Fathom,” tells the story of a young bride whose husband is called to war. Not wanting to leave his side, she dresses like a man to fight with him on the seas. Given the bleak tendency I’ve previously described, you probably can guess how this works out.
“Eat” is constructed from myriad vocal samples, a bass line, and a beat, and is told from the perspective of a blood-sucking insect, hence the “eat.” People are bound to immediately draw parallels to Billie Eilish and FINNEAS, and they would not be entirely wrong. I’d remind all, however, that as a pop producer himself, Godfrey has been using these tricks of the trade for many years. This is a preemptive rally against the uninformed who would charge “trendjacker” in this instance.
It’s one of the aspects of Frost* I appreciate, that Godfrey is bringing some of the touchstones of super-glossy pop, trap, and even iPad Hip-Hop into the progressive rock world, making it in fact ‘progressive.’ It’s also an aspect that has driven hardliner prog fans berserk with irritation. There is room for new music in the prog world that still features organs, Mellotrons, Rickenbackers, and mystical lyrics, of course, but these are far more in line with classic rock. I don’t see why Frost* gets so much flack for breaking the boundaries. Wasn’t that what this genre was purportedly invented to do?
Still, I must admit that I am glad that these songs weren’t part of Falling Satellites. Knowing these now as I do, the full package would have been mood overkill. I am quietly concerned that if the remainder of 13 Winters doesn’t lighten the approach a little, it will become exactly what I am glad Falling Satellites didn’t.
Another thought is that some of Godfrey’s most-used tricks aren’t delivering the same punch as they used to. Sudden volume drops to absolute zero, replaced by music box chimes, etc., or reversals where silence bursts into massive, loud chorus refrains aren’t unexpected as they were on Frost*s first album Milliontown or even the second Experiments in Mass Appeal. While I think “Fathers” is a terrific opener for this collection, I still had a bit of an eye-roll when this tactic graduated into a trope.
Yet I have stuck with Others E.P. for what it is and, on that level, appreciate the thrills it brings. It would have been a shame if these tracks never saw the light of day, but now it is time to move this band to a new plateau, both in mood and construction. Others should also act as a cap for this period of songwriting, readying the next, and I believe Godfrey is up for the challenge.